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September 2004 Reviews by

 Atomic 7
A Is Jump

Amps II Eleven
Lynn Anderson
Another Blue Door
The Beeples
The Bobbleheads
The Bones

Call Me Lightning

Cowboy Jack Clement
Comment Piece
Roger Creager*
DJ Harry

Val Emmich
Janie Fricke
Dizzy Gillespie
Benny Goodman

The Great Depression
Angie Heaton

The Hives
The Hentchmen
Josh Hodges

Stan Kenton*

Ethan Lipton

Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra
Malachi Constant

David McCormack & The Polaroids*
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Olympic Dumps
The Redlands Palomino Co.

Bill Santen
Shacky Dumpling
Richard Shindell
Steve Singh
The Slow Poisoners

Sufjan Stevens*
The Strange

Turing Machine

Butch Walker
Dinah Washington
Ron Williams

The Yellow Swans

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


September 2004 Comment Piece:
Both Sides Are Always WRONG

Do you ever wonder what makes people want to take sides on an issue? After all, the subjects are always so pointless and retarded. You have to wonder why anyone would even care about any of these dumb issues in the first place (!)...much less try to convince the world that their way of thinking is correct. One thing is for certain...it's a really easy way to determine who the idiots are. Let's consider some of the latest public debates that are currently being drilled into the goddamn ground...with no apparent end in sight.

Abortion. Who cares whether abortion is legal or illegal? Don't we have something better to do with our time than debate this one?

Cloning. Clone...or don't clone. It doesn't make any difference either way.

Same sex marriage. Who cares if homosexuals and lesbians get married...or if they don't? Why should anyone care? Why should marriage even exist in the first place?

Iraq. Haven't we heard enough about this goddamn country...? Stay in, get out, stay in, get out...but please just shut the hell up about it.

The Presidential Election. What could be more boring? Democracies will always fail because--if you give the entire population the right to make a choice--they will always make the wrong choice. Besides...only idiots vote.

Stem Cell Research. Do research on stem cells...or don't do any research at all of any kind. Snore.

The Death Penalty. Kill inmates or don't kill 'em. Who cares?

And so...our latest fad philosophy is that...we are against BOTH sides of ALL issues. Just the fact that anyone would choose to take a stand on an issue is reason enough to dismiss them as credible human beings. People take sides on issues because they think they can make a goddamn difference. Ha! What a damn joke!

Thinking of taking a stand on some hotly-debated issue...? Why not make the right choice for once and...DON'T DO IT.

Assholes stand up for what they believe in. People with integrity...don't.

If you think that you are really clever, you may be sitting there thinking "Ah ha...but now those babysue people themselves have taken a stand on this particular issue by telling everyone not to take up positions...which puts them in the same boat as everyone else."

Ah...not so fast, really clever people. Remember this:

Because we don't really exist, we can judge people unfairly any day of the week and any month of the year...and we will never ever be accountable for our words or actions.

Stay tuned...because next month we may very well see things in a completely different light.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Atomic 7 - ...en Hillbilly Caliente (CD, Mint, Guitar/instrumental)
More great absolutely cool feelgood music from Atomic 7. The band consists of Brian Connelly (guitar), Mike Andrioso (drums), and Mandi Bird (bass). While the trio's music might be lumped into the surf category by many, that would be doing a great disservice to the band. To put it a nutshell, the folks in Atomic 7 create creative upbeat energetic instrumentals. They don't try to blow folks away with volume...and their music doesn't contain studio gimmicks and tricks. Instead, Mr. Connelly and company opt to do a lot...using only the bare basics. Just as was the case with their last album (Gowns By Edith Head), the results are astounding. The band seems to have a penchant for crazy names ("Kicking at the Ghost of Ass," "Funeral Hotpants," "The Happy Fingers Method") but make no mistake...the music is straightforward and genuine. These great tunes don't require too much thought...just a genuine appreciation of rock music in general. If you like guitar instrumental bands, you won't do much better than this... (Rating: 5+)

A Is Jump - My Ice Fingered Ghost (CD, Future Appletree, Progressive pop)
Beautiful, delicate, intricately constructed progressive pop with a difference. Begun as an intrastate four-track recording project, A Is Jump has blossomed into a truly class act. The tunes on My Ice Fingered Ghost are subtle and moving compositions that combine pop with absolutely heavenly instrumental passages. While the melodies are accessible...they are also strangely foreign. By combining the familiar with the unfamiliar...the band manages to entertain while having a slightly perplexing effect on the listener. Unlike many bands who tread into this sort of territory, the folks in A Is Jump are neither droney nor boring. Their music is well-structured, intelligent, and sounds just slightly unusual. This album has an overall dreamy quality that is most effective and appealing. Intoxicatingly cosmic cuts include "Peeling Space," "Until the Roof Explodes," "Cursing the Green Wave," and "1,001 Goals." Excellent lyrics throughout. Really nice material that sounds better with repeated spins. A great album. (Rating: 5++)

Amps II Eleven - Amps II Eleven (CD, Smog Veil, Hard rock)
Apparently taking their band name from a line in the film Spinal Tap, the guys in Amps II Eleven live up to their badass name. This is the band's debut album...and it's an intense trip into modern day amped-up garage rock. These guys plays super LOUD. Their guitars seem to be constantly turned up to eleven...and the vocals are a thick screaming wall of adrenaline. Considering how loud and hard this band plays, the tunes on Amps II Eleven are impressive. Despite the intensity, there are some great hooks to be found in these tracks. Folks who aren't into hard rock are almost certain to hate this band...but folks who like it loud will be in heaven. To the band's credit, on their initial tour to support the album they are including smaller cities like Savannah, GA, Louisville, KY, and Johnson City, TN. Killer loud rock played with gusto and style. (Rating: 5)

Lynn Anderson - The Bluegrass Sessions (CD & DVD set, DM, Country/bluegrass)
With the recent resurgence of bluegrass music, many country artists have gone back to their roots. Lynn Anderson is the latest country superstar to record a collection of her hits in true bluegrass style. Anderson is a true legend with a track record that is vast and ultimately impressive. The Bluegrass Sessions is bound to delight her legions of fans. Lynn's husky, sincere voice is what made her famous in the first place...and on this album, she can still kick out the tunes just like she did decades ago. Produced by Bil VornDick, this is a slick and cool album that warms the heart. Spirited tunes include "What A Man My Man Is," "Rocky Top," "How Can I Unlove You" (this one translates particularly well), "Rose Garden," "If I Kiss You," and "The Worst Is Yet To Come." In addition to the CD, this package also includes a DVD featuring a video of the tune "Cry" and an interview with Ms. Anderson. One of the greatest country artists presents yet another fantastic album. Ms. Anderson just refuses to sell out...and for this, we applaud her. (Rating: 5+)

Another Blue Door - Haulers (CD, Stinky, Pop/rock)
If you're looking for a quick easy fix, Another Blue Door may not be the band for you. If you don't mind spinning a disc several times in order to get the full effect...you will most likely eventually end up falling in love with Haulers. The tunes on this album are loose and crazy...often spiraling to unusual heights. The band's sound is centered around the peculiar vocals of Dave Schoonderbeek. The man's voice sounds like rubber bands. Instead of just singing...he takes melodies and mutates them with his own distinct delivery. Just as striking are the guitars in this band's music. If you don't normally like lead guitars there's a good chance this band will be the exception to the rule. Haulers is a moving album...full of mood enhancing compositions that push the needles back and forth over the course of the album. Cool intense tunes include "Nova Scotia," "Streetlight Song," "How're Things?," and "Ithaca, N.Y." Unusual and intense. (Rating: 5)

The Beeples - Beat the Meeples (CD, Kaptaindull, Pop)
Okay folks...are you ready to meet the Beeples? Or would you rather Beat the Meeples...? They're not done yet and they're full of fractions...and if you try just a little bit more than you usually do, you just might find that you're stupid enough to buy their music. The Beeples are four taxi-driving vehicular boss stinkers who like to pick up things and play them. Sometimes they play stripes and patterns...at other times they play flashing lights and botox diapers. The band is based in Amsterdam, but they have never been there. The first cut on the album ("Mease, Mease Pee") is a humpty-dumpty little trot of a punkster that gets frollied around with dishes full of lolly-bog. "Lee Shoves Jew" is marvelous at once...and then never ever marvelous again. By the fifth track ("I Wanna Scald Your Lily White Hands"), a noisy jello booster with drippy stuff at the bottom, things just get as dumb as they can really quick. Stop wasting your money all the time, sheep-like morons. There is no music anywhere or anytime that is worth your money. So don't waste your money buying music. Don't waste your time shopping for anything. The only thing you get when you spend money is quick, instant gratification that fades within hours. If everyone realized this...the entire economy would just collapse (which is what it should have done years ago). Don't think...commit something wrong. And don't forget to Sneak the Cheeples, for Christ's sake. (Rating: 1)

The Bobbleheads - Automatic Fun (CD, PopPop, Pop)
Not your average pop band. The songs don't sound generic and the fellows in the band don't look like pop stars (possibly because--at least for the time being--they're not). San Francisco's The Bobbleheads are unfortunately rather likely to get lost in the shuffle because they aren't into gimmicks and they aren't jumping on bandwagons. Their goal, as they define it, is to make the perfect three minute song. While they aren't quite there yet...Automatic Fun provides plenty of tunes that come pretty damn close. Bobbleheads tunes are simple and direct...and they are not buried in overdubs and studio tricks. The real strength of these guys' music comes in the form of lyrics and melodies. The songs are strong throughout Fun...creating a pure and simple feelgood experience for the listener. The Bobbleheads are refreshingly sincere and talented. Hummable cuts include "#37 Bus," "The Possibility Song," "Out Tonight," and "Why Not Smile?" Positively positive. (Rating: 4++++)

The Bones - Straight Flush Ghetto (CD, Liquor and Poker Music, Rock)
While Sweden's The Bones have been around since 1996, Straight Flush Ghetto is the band's first album to be released in the United States...courtesy of the fine folks at the tasty Liquor and Poker Music label. The band's masculine hyperactive sound has already caught on in a big way in their native country...and they are now likely to spread the mania to other less civilized parts of the world. Ghetto is a no-frills barrage of catchy hard rock tunes played with fury and intensity. The guitars are always turned up all the way...and the vocalist has a raspy roar that sounds not unlike early Alice Cooper around the time of Killer. While the band's tunes sound very much like anthems, they thankfully avoid the tired cliche of having fifty little energized punks yelling along in Hitler-like unison during the choruses. The band keeps things simple...playing loud and steady...and presenting truly quality material. This disc features all all fifteen tracks on the original album plus a bonus track ("The Chevy Devils") and a music video ("Do You Wanna..."). This is a nice jolt of modern rock served straight up...and it's almost certain to knock your block off. Killer cuts include "Spit It Out," "Half of Nothing," "Shut Up, Get Out," and "I Don't Want You..." This band truly rocks out...of this world. A real rush. (Rating: 5+)

Call Me Lightning - The Trouble We're In (CD, Revelation, Rock)
Jerky, loud, unpolished hard rock. Call Me Lightning is Nathan Lilley (vocals, guitar), Bill Kutsch (bass, keys, vocals), and Shane Hochstetler (drums, percussion). This trio's brand of hard rock is peculiar and nervous. The guitars are jagged and skewed...the rhythms thumpy and persistent...and the vocals are rough and strained. Considering the odd ingredients that are lumped together, it is impressive indeed that these guys are as tight as they are. The tunes that focus on funky riffs (reference "Horseflies") are the best. So many hard rock bands are guilty of turning way, way up and then blaring out dull noise. These guys are different. Even with the rough edges, there is a lot more going on here than initially meets the ears. Even though the overall sound is very different, this album bears a strange similarity to Wire's Pink Flag album in terms of overall feel. Some might feel that Call Me Lightning tunes sound unfinished...but that is most likely exactly what the band was shooting for. This disc features fantastic artwork of rats eating up a city. The insert/booklet contains more excellent mind-expanding art provided by Lilley, Kutcsch, and Faythe Levine. The Trouble We're In is a strange, cool, and unpredictable experience... (Rating: 5+)

Castanets - Cathedral (CD, Asthmatic Kitty, Avant-country)
Castanets is Raymond Raposa...along with an impressive cast of additional musical personalities. This short album (clocking in at just over 30 minutes) presents oddly captivating performances. Raposa and company create peculiar music. The tunes range from soft and sparse country-inspired pieces...to progressive experimental doodling. Combined, the two styles merge together. well...and keep the listener off guard. Raposa hangs out with the right folks. Assisting him on these recordings are members of Tristeza, Pinback, Rocket From the Crypt, and Liz Janes. Cathedral is an odd album. There's not a lot on the market to compare it to. (How many other "avant-country" acts are there?) While it may be hard to judge this album because of its nature, one this is certain. There is substance lurking below. A true obscurity. (Rating: 4+++)

Cowboy Jack Clement - Guess Things Happen That Way (CD, Dualtone, Country/pop)
Most press releases are predictable and boring...with publicists dredging up every single thing they can possibly think of to try and convince writers to cover an album. Perhaps this is why the press release for Guess Things Happen That Way caught our attention. Instead of trying to sell others, the release simply gave a brief overview of this man's career. Wow. Although most folks probably aren't familiar with the name Cowboy Jack Clement...they have almost certainly either heard the man or others he has influenced many times in the past. In the course of his career, Clement has worked with everyone from Johnny Cash to Townes Van Zandt to Jerry Lee Lewis to Louis Armstrong to...well, the list just goes on and on and on. Despite his impressive connections, Clement has chosen to remain mostly behind the spotlight. This is only his second album (the first, released nearly three decades ago, was All I Want To Do In Life). The title track of this album was made famous by Johnny Cash, whose voice appears in this version. Clement has a nice easygoing style of writing, playing, and singing. You can tell by the tone of his voice that he loves what he does...and the material is, not surprisingly, memorable and strong. Our favorite tracks are the humorous ones: "S-E-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y" and "Drinking Carrot Juice." At 73, Jack Clement proves that his career is still on the move. Instead of letting himself become a shadow from the past...he continues providing solid, quality entertainment. This man is an inspiration to senior citizens everywhere. (Rating: 5)

Roger Creager - Live Across Texas (CD, Dualtone, Country/pop)
Look out Toby Keith...Roger Creager is hot on your bigass tail to snag the title of Macho King of Redneck Country Music...and Creager's got the songs and the voice to do it. Live CDs aren't always such a good thing...but in the case of Live Across Texas it's a real plus because the disc gives a great indication of what a killer concert this guy and his band can put on. Creager's sexy deep voice is perfect for the style of music he writes...and he writes songs that obviously resonate with his audience (the folks at this concert can obviously relate...in many cases singing along with every single word). One of the things that makes Creager's music more appealing that Keith (of late) is that every other song is not about patriotism and the U.S.A. Thank God. Not only are the song topics better...but in many cases, so are the songs. The album is peppered with some killer lyrics (I'm a redneck mother and my mother's a redneck too). Over the course of these seventeen tunes, Creager has the audience securely in the palm of his hand from start to finish. And it's no wonder. The man is extraordinarily talented, focused, and completely charismatic...and his band absolutely kicks ass from start to finish. Lookout America...country's next badboy superstar is on his way...and his name is Roger Creager. One of the best live country albums ever recorded, this is almost as good as being there. Classic stuff. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

DJ Harry - Collision (CD, Sci Fidelity, Techno/dance)
DJ Harry's music might not seem so unusual...except when you consider where he resides. Writing and recording techno/dance music in the unlikely city of Boulder, Colorado...this young man may be helping to create a new dance scene in his hometown. The tunes on Collision are slick, thick, highly produced dance numbers with nice organic roots. Instead of merely churning out electronic rhythms and slapping predictable bleeps and blips over the top, DJ Harry starts a groove and then layers it with outstanding instrumentation. Many of these tunes have a very orchestrated feel. The only constant on this album are the infectious, groovy rhythms. Some people dismiss all dance music as a mindless medium...but in actuality, it is just like all other genres. It all depends on what you do with it. This is a cool collection of intelligent dance music, featuring classy cuts like "Tragedy in Blue," "Shadows" "Aquarium Man," and "Send in the Clowns." (Rating: 4++++)

Donovan - Beat Cafe (CD, Appleseed Recordings, Pop)
Beat Cafe is the first album from Donovan in eight years. While Mr. Leitch continues to be recognized for his overall contributions to folk and rock music...for some peculiar reason his latest albums don't receive the recognition they deserve. Sutras was a magnificent album that seemed to be, unfortunately, appreciated by only a very small audience...even though it received almost unanimous praise from critics. Donovan's own tune from a few years' back ("Well Known Has Been") almost seems to have been a predictor of things to come. Despite having a smaller but dedicated audience that follows his current career path, Donovan still occasionally comes out of hiding to give his fans what they want...more of his gentle and genuinely original personality. Long time fans of the man have come to know that you never know what to expect from Donovan. While Sutras was a pure folk experience...Beat Cafe seems to defy description...incorporating a wide variety of styles from almost all phases of his career. The album is appropriately named, as these pop pieces are mostly based around beats. Unlike early in his career, Donovan seems to have purposely stopped trying to write commercial or hit material...opting instead to follow his heart and mind as to where his music should take him. As such, these tunes are personal, genuine, and somewhat unpredictable. The idea was to produce a collection of recordings that captured the essence and spirit of beat cafes and the beat generation...all the way from 1846 to the present. With the help of Danny Thompson (double bass), Jim Keltner (drums), and John Chelew (keyboards and production)...Donovan accomplishes his goal. These tunes are infused with the smoky feel of the beatnik generation. Although he was approached by larger labels interested in releasing this album, Leitch instead went with the Appleseed Recordings label simply because he liked the way they operate. While others have sold out along the way...Donovan instead continues in his mission to write and record sincerely amazing music for people with a mind and a conscience. Hard to believe this gentleman is approaching the 60 year mark. Another remarkable album from a truly remarkable fellow. (Rating: 5+)

Val Emmich - Slow Down Kid (CD-R, Epic, Pop/rock)
The first track of this CD-R is a harsh and impolite warning to individuals regarding copyright infringement. Anyone out there in the mood to be threatened by tiny little invisible copyright police on a plastic audio disc before you even get to listen to it? It's like being told that you will be prosecuted for shoplifting before you even enter a store. We did not listen to the actual music as our instincts told us that any disc containing such a heated preliminary warning must be T-R-O-U-B-L-E in other respects. To be honest, we were afraid to even keep the disc. Geez...what if we misspelled a word in the review? Or got a fact wrong even? Sheesh, we might end up in prison for years. So...how do you suppose that message is going to sound ten...or twenty...or fifty spins later...? Kinda sorta...unbearable perhaps? And do you think this new strategy is going to help...or hurt...the artists? We don't need to waste any more time here. With apologies to Val Emmich, we opted to (1) break the disc into small pieces, (2) burn it, and (3) lower it into the middle of the ocean. After all...golly gosh and sheesh...we sure don't wanna be caught with it. (Not Rated)

Janie Fricke - The Bluegrass Sessions (CD, DM, Country/bluegrass)
Because we are constantly listening to so much challenging and unusual music, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate artists who are simple and sincere. While not as well-known as some of her contemporaries, Janie Fricke certainly deserves a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. She has released 23 albums and 36 hit singles...but most people probably know her voice from advertisements. For many years, Janie was one of the most successful jingle singers of all time...lending her talents to ads produced by companies like United Airlines, Coca-Cola, 7-Up, and Red Lobster. The Bluegrass Sessions is exactly what it purports to be. On this album, Fricke serves up ten of her hits played in bluegrass style. What is most surprising is how well the tunes transfer to this style of music. It could be the top-notch players Fricke is surrounded by...or it could be her cool, understated vocals. In addition to the ten reworked tracks, the album also includes two standards and one new song that Janie herself wrote. The DVD doesn't offer a great deal...only one music video...but the interview is quite revealing and entertaining. For someone who never meant to be a big celebrity, Janie Fricke seems to have made the transition with little difficulty. Another excellent album from one of country's best. (Rating: 5)

Dizzy Gillespie - Jivin' In Be-Bop (DVD, Idem / Music Video Distributors, Jazz)
Jivin' In Be-Bop is a bit different from other releases in Idem's wonderful Swing Era catalog. First, all of the songs on this DVD were taken from a single source (the 1947 film of the same name). As a result, the disc is very consistent from track to track in terms of quality and consistency. Second, this collection is more like a variety show than mere music clips. In many of the songs...particularly those featuring dancers...you don't even see the orchestra at all. Much has been written about Dizzy Gillespie's unmistakable influence in the world of jazz. Without a doubt the man opened up a great many doors that had not been opened before. Dizzy's may have been tagged on him because of his style of playing the trumpet. Watching this man, it seems almost impossible that anyone could play with such speed and fluidity. He was most definitely in a zone (!). Dizzy was also a great showman, as is evidenced by his fancy footwork on this DVD. Interestingly, Gillespie's voice was perhaps the weakest link in the chain. For someone with so much charisma and energy...his voice just wasn't that strong. Perhaps this is why the tracks featuring guest vocalists are possibly the strongest musically. Our favorite footage on this disc is "Dynamo A"...which features two young couples cutting the rug absolutely to shreds with some of the craziest dancing we've seen in some time. One minor gripe...it would have been nice to have a listing of all the featured guest artists. Like all releases in the Swing Era series...this is required viewing for all true jazz fans. (Rating: 5)

Benny Goodman - Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Hoagy Carmichael, Jack Teagarden: Kings of the Swing Era (DVD, Idem / Music Video Distributors, Jazz)
While this DVD features some wonderful footage, it is not without problems. Probably the biggest flaw with this disc is the title and packaging. While Benny Goodman's name and image are on the cover...this DVD contains only a mere two short tunes from him. Folks wanting to see lots of Goodman would be well-advised to take note of the track listing before buying this disc. Even more troubling is the fact that during Goodman's two segments the track numbers go out of whack (the introduction is incorrectly flagged as the first track). For the remainder of the disc, the track numbers do not match up with the actual tracks...making it very frustrating trying to figure out what is actually on the screen. These problems aside...this DVD does have a lot to offer...mainly a lot of material featuring the wonderful (and often overlooked) talents of the great Jack Teagarden. Despite his obvious talent, Teagarden is often forgotten by most...most likely because (a) he didn't have a catchy name, (b) he wasn't as handsome, and (c) he played the trombone (as opposed to clarinet or trumpet). But make no mistake, this man was a fantastic talent...and fortunately half of the tracks on this disc feature his talents (!). Of particular interest are the segments where Jack and Hoagy Carmichael share the spotlight. Some absolutely great stuff here...! We can't help but wonder why Paul Whiteman was not included in this collection...? A better title for this DVD would have been Jack Teagarden and the Kings of the Swing Era. Problems aside, this collection is still well worth many repeated viewings... (Rating: 4+++)

The Great Depression - Unconscious Pilot (CD, Princess, Progressive pop)
Grand epic progressive pop with cascading multiple layering. The gentlemen in The Great Depression write and record luscious thick tunes that have cool melodies woven in and out of the mix. The subtle tracks on Unconscious Pilot are like dreamy mood pieces...and each has its own distinct sound. This band's music doesn't sound like the music of other progressive popsters. Instead of injecting their pop with jazz (which is most often the case), these guys instead incorporate classical...and even waltz (?!?) music into their pieces. Oddly, the peculiar puzzle pieces fit together better than one might think. The vocals are often drenched in reverb and echo...causing them to merge with the instruments and blur. The overall feel of this album is calming and reflective. Cool cuts include "The Baltic Sea," "A Daring Tale of Escape," "Violent Goodbyes," and "Advents." Unusually well-conceived. (Rating: 5)

Angie Heaton - Let It Ride (CD, Parasol, Pop)
Smooth hummable pop that glides. Let It Ride, the third album from Angie Heaton, is a pure upbeat feelgood experience. The tunes are immediately catchy and the lyrics are about subjects that most people should be able to relate to. Heaton was previously in the bands Corndolly, Liquorette, and Tractor Kings but began releasing solo material in 1996. This album was recorded over a period of three years, which may explain the striking attention to detail. While Heaton's material is soft and easy, her songs are anything but sugar-coated nuggets. This young lady has a conscience and that fact comes across loud and clear in her music. Singing from experience, Angie seems to communicate straight from her heart...which makes listening to her music a surprisingly personal experience. The melodies are great...but her vocals are the real centerpiece. Lovely slick pop with a difference. (Rating: 4++++)

The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives (CD, Interscope, Rock)
Sweden's Hives combine a very strong visual image with truly impressive songs...possibly proving that making music for the masses doesn't have to be an embarrassment (!). For Tyrannosaurus Hives the band chose to dress in black and white suits with white bow ties. Four of the five look more like conservative businessmen than rock stars. It would be easy to dismiss these guys simply because they are taking such an obvious approach with their music...but that would, perhaps, be missing the point. Songs are what make an album...and Tyrannosaurus Hives is just jammed to the max with excellent tunes. The band's music is something like a cross between garage rock and 1980s new wave. Surprisingly, the lyrics are credible, intelligent, and thoroughly entertaining. These guys are doing virtually everything right. They've got a great look, a great sound, and their energy is absolutely contagious. Cool cuts include "Abra Cadaver," "Walk Idiot Walk" (a killer track!), "B Is For Brutus," "Diabolic Scheme," and "Antidote." Excellent loud rock. (Rating: 5+++)

The Hentchmen - FormFollowsFunction (CD, Times Beach, Garage rock)
Genuinely entertaining garage rock played with real style. Michigan is producing some really top-notch bands lately...and The Hentchmen are certainly among the best. These three guys play simple, loud rock music that features strong melodies and driving rhythms. The vocals are slightly distorted...yet not so much as to make the lyrics indistinguishable. The tunes on FormFollowsFunction are timeless in that they don't really sound like music from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s. Instead, the style of garage rock presented here will probably live on forever. This is truly a kickass little album featuring dance-crazy tracks like "Perpetuate the Continuance," "Mike in the Middle," "Virginia Dare," and "Safe at Home." A truly fun trip. (Rating: 5+)

Josh Hodges - Sexton Blake (CD, Expunged, Pop)
Refreshingly unique home recorded pop. Because everyone has a recording studio in their basement, bedroom, or office...the world is now peppered with thousands upon thousands of recording artists who would never have existed a couple of decades ago. This is nice in some ways. But in other ways, it can be depressing mainly because...so many folks are really just wasting their time, spending countless hours creating dull generic music that no one will ever want to hear. Fortunately there are those individuals who clearly stand out from the pack. At a mere 24 years of age, home recording popster Josh Hodges has created an intelligent and truly entertaining collection of tunes. Sexton Blake contains thoughtful, subdued, pensive pop that sounds not unlike the critically acclaimed Sufjan Stevens. Hodges comes up with subtle arrangements that really make his tunes shine...and he has a fantastic super smooth voice. Hodges' music an easy trip to get into. His songs aren't overworked but rather...patterned with just enough essential layers to give them real lasting power. Fourteen great cuts including "Emma," "Me or Mine," "Want To Die" (an absolutely killer little tune...with some extremely depressing lyrics), "Doesn't Matter," and "Better Off Dead." Josh Hodges is a credible and original new artist worthy of your attention. (Rating: 5+)

Stan Kenton - A Restless, Experimental Artist by Nature (DVD, Idem / Music Video Distributors, Jazz)
This DVD is a welcome reminder of what an influential bandleader Stan Kenton was. In addition to trying out all kinds of new approaches to big band and jazz, he was a master at selecting just the right musicians to do the job. As a result, his recordings are some of the best from the 1940s and 1950s. The film clips on this DVD are from the 1940s ("Southern Scandal," "It's Been A Long, Long Time," "Jammin' in the Panoram," "Eager Beaver," "Tampico," "Reed Rapture"). These pieces have been remastered with precise attention to quality. In addition to the clips from Kenton, the disc also features selections from Charlie Barnet, Les Brown, and Claude Thornhill. The Les Brown clips are the best...featuring all kinds of crazy stuff. During one tune, two men take off dancing hand in hand (?!?) in a wild frenzy. In another, a very young Doris Day presents a captivating performance...proving once again that she was a much better singer than she is normally given credit for. Perhaps the most priceless piece here is Claude Thornhill's somewhat trippy rendition of "Where Has My Little Dog Gone?" In this clip, several lovely ladies in their bathing suits dance and sing while pulling fake dogs on chains. Then one ends up at a hot dog stand...at which point her hot dog crawls off the bun, grows wings, and flies away. The girls then pummel the hot dog man and...well, you'll just have to see this one to believe it. Unbelievably funny and outrageously campy. As is the case with some of the other DVD from this series, the songs don't always match up with the tracking numbers on the back...which is unfortunate. Other than that one minor gripe, this is a fantastic and thoroughly entertaining collection of material. Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Killradio - Raised on Whipped Cream (CD, Columbia, Hard rock)
The first thing that caught our attention about Raised on Whipped Cream was...the lyrics. What a refreshing change to hear a band rock out like crazy while singing about tearing down the system. And the best part is...they sound like they really mean it (!). Mad angry rock can be a seriously tired and tedious medium...but that is mainly because there are so many bands spewing out generic hate like it's a new brand of cottage cheese. These guys write genuinely good material and manage to include plenty of smart messages along the way. This is a thick and intense trip into the world of modern rock. The energy level is extremely high...and the overall sound is reminiscent of rock bands from the late 1970s. With hints of The Sex Pistols running through their tunes, the guys in Killradio are tapping into a nice big thick juicy vein that needs something real injected into it. Punchy and loud...this is one helluva thrilling batch of tunes that'll break your mental funk. Great stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Layton - Grand Design (CD, Leftwing Recordings / BMG, Pop)
Intelligent and soothing mid-tempo techno pop. Before jumping to conclusions, be aware of the fact that Grand Design is not generic techno crap (!). It is, instead, a well-crafted collection of heady tunes that are puzzling and slightly peculiar. The band's music is centered around electronic rhythms and spacey keyboards...and features really cool male and female vocals. At some points the band's music sounds something like New Order and David Bowie...but the comparisons only hold true on occasion. In actuality, these folks' music includes many human elements threaded into it...and the programming is extraordinary. But while much can be said about the technology involved...what is really impressive here are the tunes. There are some great melodies to be found in these compositions. Even though the music is driven by technology and slickly produced...Grand Design remains, overall, an upbeat and wonderfully refreshing dose of modern pop. Cool danceable tracks include "C-June," "Roundagon," Daze of My Lives," and "Hope's All There Is." Great stuff...! (Rating: 5++)

Ethan Lipton - A New Low (CD, Home Office Records, Comedy/pop)
After plowing through way too many CDs that all sound alike on a hot and steamy sunny afternoon...the music of New York's Ethan Lipton came as a very welcome surprise. Recorded live, A New Low has the sound and feel of Martin Mull's first couple of albums (particularly the dialogue) or even early Bonzo Dog Band. Lipton is a normal looking guy in a business suit with dark hair and a mustache...who plays ukulele...and writes some very funny songs. Some of the material on this album is laugh-out-loud funny...and it's all delivered with integrity and style. Ethan has a surprisingly good voice...which makes his material all the more effective. Consider "Don't Hate the Famous" in which Lipton sings Don't hate me for loving your best friend...you introduced us...la da de la dee. Or how about "We're Not Close Enough" which features lines like We're not close enough to get stoned together...we're not close enough to watch public television. Ethan is just normal enough...and just odd enough...to really stand out in the world. Some of the tunes don't work as well as others...but that matters little with a spirit and mind this strong. Lipton is obviously a very smart guy...let's hope he receives the recognition he deserves. (Rating: 4++++)

n.Lannon - Chemical Friends (CD, Badman, Pop)
Nyles Lannon, until now better known as a guitarist/vocalist in the band Film School, has recently begun recording and releasing solo material...first as n.ln and now under the name n.Lannon. Chemical Friends is Lannon's journey into the world of acoustic/ambient pop music. Most technology-driven musicians wouldn't dare touch an acoustic guitar...which is part of what makes Friends unique. True to the claim of the press release that accompanied the disc, some of the tunes on Friends bear a slight resemblance to some of Paul Simon's early material...particularly the guitar playing. What is especially impressive about this album are the treatments on the vocals. Despite the fact that the vocals are soft and subdued...there are some really cool effects that make them even more effective. "The Catch," the first track, is particularly appealing...especially when the electric guitar creeps in midway through. Nice dreamy tunes like "My Last Breath" and "I Freak You Out" make this album a keeper... (Rating: 5)

Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra - La Semana (CD, Spiral Subwave, New age/instrumental)
Is it just us... or are there others out there who want to re-name Ottmar Liebert's band Lunar Negro...? All kidding aside...La Semana is yet another slick and entertaining collection of tunes from Liebert and company. Liebert's music is centered around his fluid flamenco guitar playing...which is embellished and enhanced by imaginative arrangements. The result is a soothing and refreshing brand of new age music that is anything but dull and boring. This man has done a tremendous amount of recording over the past decade or so...recording and releasing no less than 22 albums since 1990. Liebert has, interestingly, chosen to take complete control over the distribution of his music. This album is only available at his concerts and through his web site. It is not being distributed to retail outlets and it is not sold through other web sites. This is undoubtedly the wave of the future, as more and more successful artists are choosing to forego the normal routes of distribution. After all, when you can create an album as consistent as La Semana...who needs a record company to sell it...? Cool, classy cuts include "Carousel," "Cocteau," "Spring Rain," and "Caipira." Excellent. (Rating: 5)

Malachi Constant - Infinite Justice (CD, Guilt Ridden Pop, Rock)
How many bands can you think of whose music has true depth...? If you are being honest with yourself, the answer is very, very few. Depth just may be what makes the music of Saint Paul's Malachi Constant unique. Refusing to follow trends or ape the styles of others, this quartet takes music and mutates it into their own unique ocean liner. Songs blur and transform from one style into another...seemingly without any premeditation (or premedication). What many don't realize is that songs don't necessarily have to have lyrics. Malachi Constant tunes, while mostly instrumental, occasionally include lyrics that seem to pop up from nowhere...before disappearing in a wall of confusion. Possibly the best way of describing this band's music is to say that it sounds like a cross between Television and Poster Children...but that doesn't adequately capture the sound in words. There are few bands indeed who can expand the minds of their listeners. These folks do...and they do so with wildly polite style. The music features an extreme variety of peaks and valleys...the playing is outstanding...and the dual guitar work is as COOL as HELL. These folks prove that you don't have to be angry to create a truly intense wall of sound. On Infinite Justice, intelligence reigns supreme. While a bit more subdued than the overtly crazed insanity of their last album (Zenith), Justice still packs a mighty bingo-monkey punch...providing all kinds of perspectives on which to dine in audio trinity. Totally cool stuff from one of the best bands on the planet. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

David McCormack and The Polaroids - The Truth About Love (CD, Laughing Outlaw, Pop)
David McCormack is an underground favorite in his home country of Australia and it's no wonder. The Truth About Love features a wealth of absolutely absorbing and effective pop tunes. McCormack's music is reminiscent of mid-period Kinks (when Ray Davies was at the peak of his game). Far from being a mere copycat artist, McCormack uses Davies' melodic style as a diving board to explore his own musical perspective. The results are amazing. This album plays like a non-stop string of hits from the 1970s...except the sound and energy are twenty-first century all the way. The disc includes a beautifully prepared lyric booklet, making it easy to appreciate the sincerely effective lyrics. The arrangements change from tune to tune depending on what suits each particular track. But whether the song is cradled in lush strings...or instrumental overdubs...or left virtually naked...this man's personality shines through crystal clear. There's not a bad snapple in the bunch here...but particular standout cuts include "The Truth About Love," "Who Could You Love?", "You Are Over Me," and "Hypnotist of Lady (Part II)." Wonderfully refreshing. (Rating: 5++)

Mosquitos - Sunshine Barato (CD, Bar/None, Pop)
The folks in Mosquitos have quickly carved out their own unique niche in the world of music. The trio consists of Brazilian singer Juju Stulbach and Americans Chris Root (vocals, guitar) and Jon Marshall Smith (keyboards, samples, studio trickery). Together, these folks create Brazilian-flavored alterna-pop that goes down nice and easy. The band's music is reminiscent of Ivy, but that is mainly due to Stulbach's breathy vocal style. Sunshine Barato (translated to mean "cheap sunshine"), the band's second full-length, is even better than their debut. And considering what solid footing they started out on, that is really saying something. Barato is bound to be on a great many best of lists for this year. The songs are extremely strong and feature superb arrangements that support the main melody in a variety of intriguing ways. The band's straightforward pop music laced with hints of bossa nova is intriguing and soothing. Both Stulbach and Root have fantastic voices which pushes their music to a higher level. A cool spin from start to finish...featuring killer tracks like "Flood," "Xixizinho no Oceano," "Blue Heart," "Domesticada," and "27 Degrees." A MUST HAVE. (Rating: 5+++)

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Welcome to Woody Creek (CD, Dualtone, Pop)
Begun in 1996 when the band convened at one member's house in Woody Creek, Colorado...Welcome to Woody Creek is an honest and entertaining collection of the kind of feelgood tunes that made the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band such a big success many years ago. The band's early use of bluegrass instruments within the confines of pop music was innovative and unusual...and inspired many new trends in pop music. Nowadays, these guys' influence is obvious and widespread. While Welcome to Woody Creek is not as spirited and as lively as the band's early recordings, it is still an honest collection of tunes that is sincerely appealing. Possibly the most important variable here is that it sounds as if the band had a great time recording these songs...and time has not tarnished their appeal. Melodic keepers include "Walkin' in the Sunshine," "Jealous Moon," and "Midnight at Woody Creek." (Rating: 4+++)

Olympic Dumps (Dose of reality poetry kind of thing sort of whatever the hell who cares anyway sort of anything)

Every Olympic person
Is a real Olympic Dump.
Every Olympic anything
Is a real Olympic nothing.

Olympics show just
How much emphasis people put
On things that should never really matter
In the first place.

So you can jump really high.
Congratulations, Olympic Dump.
So you can throw a ball really far.
Congratulations, Olympic Dump.
So you can run really fast.
We are all so impressed with you, Olympic Lumpy Dump.
You can do all kinds of stupid, dull stuff
Better than others can.
What a sorry sister you are, Olympic Dump.
You can compete all you want,
But you'll always be a Dump.

Olympic Dumps
Will save the day.
When Olympic Dumps
Just go away.

(Rating: 1)

The Redlands Palomino Co. - By the Time You Hear This...We'll Be Gone (CD, Laughing Outlaw, Pop)
The Redlands Palomino Co. is a British band...with a sound that is decidedly American...whose music is released by the Laughing Outlaw label which is based in Australia. Judging from the tunes on this album, with the right amount of marketing and exposure...the band's influence could very well be spilling over into many more countries in the years to come. Unlike most unknown bands, the folks in The Redlands Palomino Co. play very accessible music that could easily be embraced by millions of people. As By the Time You Hear This...We'll Be Gone proves, playing music that can be appreciated by the masses isn't always a bad thing. In fact, it can be a very good thing. When you create accessible music that retains genuine artistic integrity...now that takes some real talent. These folks' smooth, subtle pop has a slight country flavor and features some wonderful pedal steel guitar playing that makes the songs really shine. Plenty of oughta-be hits here, including "Music's On," "Goodbye Love," "Get on the Train," and "Make Tonight Last." (Rating: 4++++)

Rivulets - You've Got Your Own (CD EP, Acuarela, Folk)
Fantastic home-recorded abstract folk reminiscent of early Donovan and Sufjan Stevens. Rivulets is Nathan Amundson...a man who certainly knows the meaning of the word restraint. You've Got Your Own features five wonderfully sparse tunes that showcase Amundson's immaculate acoustic guitar playing and smooth vocal style. With so many people in the world trying so hard to be unusual and different...the folks who stand out the most are those who are simply being themselves. Music obviously comes very naturally for this man, as his words and music are completely genuine and sincere. His precise melodies glide overhead like parachutes...while his messages slowly sink in over time. An absolutely beautiful and compelling EP featuring the tunes "Waited For You," "Shadow of a Ghost," "Rain All Winter Long," "Let It Go," and "Slight Return." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+)

Bill Santen - In the Night Kitchen with Bill Santen (CD, Happy Happy Birthday To Me, Folk/pop)
Already established as a credible artist by previously releasing material under the name Birddog, Bill Santen should need no introduction. But because most folks have probably never heard Birddog...an introduction is necessary. For several years, Santen wrote and recorded some rather fantastic material that was released under his previous moniker. While his music escaped the public at large...many folks in underground circles sang his praises to heaven and back. Some particularly notable folks lent their talents on Birddog releases...including Elliott Smith, Glenn Kotche, Jason Loewenstein, Paul Oldham, and Edith Frost. After a few years, however, Santen found he needed a break from the politics of being an underground recording star...so he took a break to concentrate on painting. He has, thankfully, now returned to the world of music. In the Night Kitchen with Bill Santen contains the same kind of sincere melodic material that made Birddog such a treat. Santen's music sounds not unlike very early Donovan. He is a master songwriter...often using nothing more than one or two instruments in a song. His style is laidback and warm...and he has an exceptionally inviting voice. Hopefully the politics of being an underground folk star won't wear on Santen's nerves anymore. This is the kind of stuff that we need to hear more of in the world of folk/pop. Cool cuts include "Hustler," "Captain Blood and St. September," "Redbud," and "Cincinnati Sings." Excellent. (Rating: 5+++)

Shacky Dumpling (Rompy sort of poem kind of thing)

Throw me your hands,
Shacky Dumpling squirt.
Lend me your gear slinks,
My Shacky Dumpling dingy.

Your ears are stout and phony,
Your mother cleans a pony.
With all the strappy poo-plack
It seems like crop and doo-lakk.

Ponder some zooey stuff and
Let your crazy razor do the lifting.
Pack your paper bag with lazy pumpkin
And do the shrink-wrap boogie with lumpkin.

Missy Lumpkin.
What a name.
Missy Lumpkin.
Down the drain.

Donate your
Goddamn money to the
Shacky Dumpling
Of your goddamn choice.

(Rating: 2)

Richard Shindell - Vuelta (CD, Koch, Folk)
Thoughtful, well-written folk music. Richard Shindell's music is reminiscent of the softer side of Richard Thompson as well as the early music of Bert Jansch. Vuelta, his sixth full-length album, should please his growing fan base. Shindell chose Puente Celeste as his backing band for this collection of tunes as they are also based in Buenos Aires, the country he now calls home. Much has been written about Richard's songwriting skills. His smooth vocal delivery and narrative lyrics should appeal to a wide range of folks. Vuelta is a pleasant and smooth voyage from start to finish, featuring "Fenario," "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," "So Says the Whipporwill" and more. Well done. (Rating: 4+++)

Steve Singh - I Will Not Break Your Heart (Independently released CD, Pop)
Canada's Steve Singh is an extraordinarily talented singer/songwriter. If you can tell a lot about a person by who they associate with...then it just might be worth mentioning the fact that Singh has shared the stage with the likes of Bert Jansch, Tom Russel, Ron Sexsmith, Hayden, and John Wesley Harding...among others. I Will Not Break Your Heart is a charming collection of impressively well-written tunes that feature absorbing lyrics and excellent melodies. Singh sings and plays with the maturity and confidence of some of the best folks out there. His songs are positive and uplifting...and they are surprisingly accessible (plenty of "could be" hits here). Impressive as it is, this is not a perfect album. The vocals are too loud in the mix in general...and the songs could use some extra touches to add a bit more variety to the proceedings. Singh is an artist in need of a good producer...someone who knows how to pull out the best traits of his music and add some additional spice when necessary. Steve Singh is a great artist who...with a bit of fine tuning...could be phenomenal. This CD is a great spin nonetheless... (Rating: 4+++)

The Slow Poisoners - Days of the Soft Break (CD, Heyday, Pop)
Man, what a promotional package. These guys have put an incredible amount of time and energy into their band. So much so that...we'd feel guilty if we didn't review their disc (!). In all honesty, the music of The Slow Poisoners wouldn't really require novelties to get people's attention...because the band writes some damn good songs. This San Francisco quartet's music sounds not unlike Pete Shelley and/or Neil Innes (one of the greatest and most underrated songwriters of all time). Bandleader Andrew Poisoner's vocals sound remarkably similar to both of these artists. There's some excellent material on this album. The songs are intelligent and the arrangements fit the tunes. Cool upbeat tunes like "Tomorrow Man," "Strange Things Happening," "We Live On the Inside," and "Chain of Flowers" are inviting and totally fun. (Rating: 4+++)

Sufjan Stevens - A Sun Came! (CD, Asthmatic Kitty, Soft pensive pop)
This is the second release of Sufjan Stevens' debut album which includes two added bonus tracks ("Joy! Joy! Joy!" and "You Are the Rake"). Being huge fans of Stevens' third album (Michigan), we were not as impressed by the last issue of previously recorded material (Seven Swans). The album was good, but not up to the quality of the material on Michigan. Having never heard the original release of A Sun Came!, we were as pleased as hell to receive this in the mail...particularly when we realized that this material is right up there with Michigan in terms of overall sound and quality. In a very short time, Mr. Stevens has found an incredibly devoted following in large part due to his sincere and obvious talent. Despite the fact that this album was recorded on a four-track machine (!), the sound quality is right up there with some of the best albums ever recorded. Sufjan's soft, soothing voice sounds great as always...and the arrangements are intricate, specific, and detailed. The lyrics are exceptional...providing clear insight into the mind of a very pure, focused, sensitive, and articulate man. Sufjan Stevens is a unique man of words (i.e., a true poet). In the world of underground pop, there are few artists whose music can compete with this. Jam packed with no less than 21 incredible tunes...this album is a soothing and addictive mindblower. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 6)

The Strange - Is Anything Alright? (Independently released CD, Moody jazzy pop)
Based in the unlikely city of Rome, Georgia...the four gentlemen in The Strange play cool jazzy pop. Is Anything Alright? features close to an hour's worth of original music. These guys' come up with some great tunes...and the playing is tight and inventive throughout all eleven tunes. The arrangements on this album are exceptional. By infusing their tunes with subtle, clever embellishments...these guys push their music to the next level. While the album is polished and professional...it is never too polished. The vocals have a bluesy feel...while the overall tone is relaxed and loose. The Strange could very easily be dubbed a groove band. Cool flexible tunes include "Lucy Is A Puzzle," "Dumb (Your Nerves Down)," "The Dumb Bug," and "Me and Shelia On The Farm" (our favorite). We'd be willing to bet that these guys are one tight little entertaining unit in concert. Not your average underground band, the guys in The Strange are focused and professional...and even slightly strange... (Rating: 4++++)

Traindodge - The Truth (Double CD, Ascetic, Progressive rock)
If you have doubts about double CDs, "Abandon City!" (the first cut on The Truth) will crush any fears. Within the space of seven minutes and thirty-two seconds, the guys in Traindodge prove that they are a true force to be reckoned with. The tune creeps in slowly...pounds like Hell, winds around multitudes of corners, and includes a multitude of surprises...before finally belting out the final chords. It's a real masterpiece of a powerhouse rocker...and something that few bands would be capable of producing. While much of the rest of the album does not match the complex intensity of this first track...there are still plenty of other kickass hard rock compositions to keep the listener happy. What is most appealing about these guys' music is that it is imaginative and different. Instead of just slamming out noise, there are plenty of unusual musical tricks and odd song structures to keep the listener intrigued. So...while the double disc idea might not work for many...in the case of The Truth, it is justified. This is an excellent album with plenty of variety and true invention. The sound quality kicks ass throughout. (Rating: 5)

Turing Machine - Zwei (CD, French Kiss, Progressive rock/instrumental)
Named after a machine invented by an obscure English theoretician named Alan Turing, the gentlemen in Turing Machine are heavily influenced by the progressive, psychedelic bands of the 1970s. The band is made up of prior members of the band Pitchblende who teamed up with ex-Vineland drummer Gerard Fuchs. Zwei is a collection of epic spontaneous tunes driven by heavy rhythms and wildly fluid guitars. This band is at their best when they go really, really, really far off the deep end ("Bitte, Baby, Bitte"). Lots of trippy sound effects bleed in and out of the speakers as the band plods along their merry way...slowly but surely driving their music deep into the brains of their listeners. Instrumental bands deserve a great deal of praise...because 99.9% of them will never receive much recognition. Zwei is a wild and heady trip...featuring plenty of eclectic compositions that will sound great either on or off...stuff. Considering the number of bands treading in the psychedelic music of the 1970s of late...could there be an acid resurgence going on in this country (???). Intense and intricate material. Very cool... (Rating: 5+)

Butch Walker - Butch Walker (CD-R, Epic, Pop/rock)
The first track of this CD-R is a harsh and impolite warning to individuals regarding copyright infringement. Anyone out there in the mood to be threatened by tiny little invisible copyright police on a plastic audio disc before you even get to listen to it? It's like being told that you will be prosecuted for shoplifting before you even enter a store. We did not listen to the actual music as our instincts told us that any disc containing such a heated preliminary warning must be T-R-O-U-B-L-E in other respects. To be honest, we were afraid to even keep the disc. Geez...what if we misspelled a word in the review? Or got a fact wrong even? Sheesh, we might end up in prison for years. So...how do you suppose that message is going to sound ten...or twenty...or fifty spins later...? Kinda sorta...unbearable perhaps? And do you think this new strategy is going to help...or hurt...the artists? We don't need to waste any more time here. With apologies to Butch Walker, we opted to (1) break the disc into small pieces, (2) burn it, and (3) lower it into the middle of the ocean. After all...golly gosh and sheesh...we sure don't wanna be caught with it. (Not Rated)

Dinah Washington - One of the Most Beloved Vocalists (DVD, Idem / Music Video Distributors, Jazz)
Yet another offering in the Swing Era series, featuring the unmistakable talents of Dinah Washington. The four tunes presented ("Only A Moment Ago," "Such A Night," "I Don't Hurt Anymore," "My Lean Baby") show Dinah at a very early stage in her career, just after having been discovered by Lionel Hampton. Dinah's phrasing is impeccable and the lady has true charisma....what a voice...and what a performer. That's just the beginning of the show, however, as this DVD continues well beyond those four tracks...offering songs by a wide variety of other lesser-known female vocalists. Of these, there are some definite standout tracks. Martha Davis is a perfect example of why the Swing Era series is so vital. If you just heard old recordings by Martha, you might not think much of it...but actually seeing her play and perform is an entirely different experience. She's like a female Fats Waller...camping it up and providing some really crazy entertainment. This lady is a scream to watch. "Martha's Boogie" and "Vipity Vop" are absolute gems. Always one of the gutsiest female performers, Ruth Brown shows just how good she gets. Her sassy attitude truly shines on "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean"...during which she dances for everything she's worth and gives her tamborine a serious shakedown. Particularly campy are the two cuts by Dorothy Dandridge. In "Zoot Suit," she dances up a storm with an unnamed gentleman who absolutely steals the show (who is this fellow? he's a real hoot!). "A Jig in the Jungle" is seriously campy, with Dandridge and other percussionists having some wild percussive fun in the jungle. You just have to see Dorothy's feather dancing to believe it. Vanita Smythe appears in a very strange film clip ("They Raided the Joint"), in which she sings/confesses to a policeman who seems to be trying to ignore her. The disc closes with the very clean and easy sounds of Edna Mae Harris...not only a beautiful lady, but also one helluva singer. Twenty-two big tracks that shed light on some of the very best female vocalists of our time. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Ron Williams - Natural Thing (CD, Black Patch, Country/pop)
Ron Williams grew up not far from Nashville in a town called Hendersonville...the son of parents who were both musicians. As he grew older, Williams figured that he would choose a different life course than his parents...working in retail and bar establishments. But despite trying to take a different path, Williams always found himself being drawn back into the world of music. So, with the urging of friends and family, he eventually came to Nashville to pursue a career in music. Williams' music is reminiscent of Daryl Singletary's easygoing style. His vocals are particularly similar in terms of phrasing. Ron is not a songwriter, but rather a man whose mission is to interpret the tunes of others. What makes Natural Thing work are an excellent choice of material and a strong and focused delivery. Williams isn't trying to change the world...but rather just to entertain folks with sincerely good music. The man's got a great, smooth vocal style...and the musicians on the album are top-notch. Plenty of nice mid-tempo tunes here. Subtle, melodic tunes include "Rent Free," "Dangerous," "Behind the Eight Ball Again" (an exceptional track), and "Close Your Eyes and You'll Miss It." Good stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

The Yellow Swans - Bring the Neon War Home (CD, Narnack, Electronic/experimental)
Imagine falling into the ocean during a lightning storm and remaining there motionless for an hour. Now open your eyes. Chances are, you may be listening to the music of The Yellow Swans. Bring the Neon War Home is the first proper commercial release by this band (they were already underground favorites based on some independent vinyl and CD-R releases that were circulating). This album is a wild experimental blur of electronics. There are no easily discernible tunes...only swirling, sweeping walls of sound...sometimes with rhythms, sometimes without. The band consists of Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman...two fellows who obviously aren't in it for the money. Considering the style of music presented here...there is most certainly a very limited audience willing to put up with it (!). Is it good...or is it irritating...? It all depends on your point of view. Some people plow away with electronics and it sounds bad. When these guys do it...it actually sounds rather intriguing and wild. If you can figure out what's going on...you're probably very, very high. If it's a trip you're looking for...this is it. You've gotta love the last line of the press release which states, "Linear is not evolution you hippy punk f*cks, circular reasoning is the true vacuum of truth." Heh heh heh...that's some very cool logic. Intensely unpredictable music. (Rating: 5)

Additional Items Received:

Alison Ranger - Formula imperative
Alkali Flats - Outen the light
Alu - Infomercial gasmask
Amber Spyglass - Accelerating parcae
Anadivine - Zoo
Angel - Believe in angels believe in me
Arkham - The freak power candidate
Army of Me - Fake ugly
Roy Ashen - Sugar and gasoline
The Aum Rifle - A peal of bells
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet - Gitane cajun
The Berg Sans Nipple - Play the immutable truth
Billion Stars - Pleads the fifth.
Black Tongue - Black Tongue (EP)
The Blondes, Inc. - The Blonds, Inc.
Blueprint - Chamber music
Blues Explosion - Damage
Blue Sparks - Blue Sparks
Bonk - Western soul
Bottletree Reader - Issue Number 1 (zine)
Boxer Rebellion - Boxer Rebellion
Karl Broadie - Nowhere now here
Buckfast - Buckfast (EP)
Bugs Eat Books - Ghosts of leaves
The Capstan Shafts - Her chapbook called "tiny grey radio"
Charmparticles - Sit down for staying (EP)
Chesterwhite and His Orchestra - Chesterwhite and His Orchestra
The C*NTS - Eat my nuts
Cowboys International - The backwards life of romeo
Dafni - Red
Joe Dickinson - This could be good
Dosh - Pure trash
Dreamend - As if by ghosts...
Elevator Division - Years
Duke Ellington - In Hollywood (DVD)
54 Seconds - Coma
Facequake - Facequake
Fenixdown - Fenixdown
Fuji Minx - Valley of the paper dolls (EP)
Graves - Yes yes o.k. o.k.
Grimble Grumble - Leaves leader
Group Sounds - Group Sounds
Don Grusin - The hang (DVD)
Guitar Wolf - Loverock
Hanalei - We are all natural disasters
Heart - Jupiters darling
The High Dials - Fields in Glass (EP)
I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House - Menace
Imposter Syndrome - Imposter Syndrome
Jack Irons - Attention dimension
Liz Janes - Poison and snakes
Johnny Reliable - Enough is enough
The Julius Airwave - Dragons are the new pink
Kevn Kinney's Sun Tangled Angel Revival - Kevn Kinney's Sun Tangled Angel Revival
Kane Hodder - The pleasure to remain so heartless
Emer Kenny - Parting glass
Kid Dakota - The west is the future
Landlord - Landlord
Letter Kills - The bridge
Li'l Cap'n Travis - ...In all their splendor
Bobby Lindstrom - A lick and a promise
Love Equals Death - 4 notes on a dying scale
James MacDonald - Naked soul
Mark Mallman - Mr. Serious
Steven Mark - Distraction
MC Lars - The laptop EP
Greg McLeod - Guns into guitars
Memphis - I dreamed we fell apart
Menomena - I am the fun blame monster!
Moments in Grace - Moonlight survived
Monster Movie - To the moon
Ian Moore - Luminaria
The Moore Brothers - Now is the time for love
Moron Parade - Dark nights, knife city
Nerve Generator - Nerve Generator
The Only Children - Change of living
Jenny Queen - Girls who cry need cake
Jonny Polonsky - Jonny Polonsky
Poster Children - On the offensive
Red Animal War - Polizida
Rhapsody - Unholy Warcry (CD single)
The Safes - Boogie woogie rumble
Say Anything - Say anything is a real boy
Seymour Glass - Note to self
Silverhawk - Westward
Sincebyman - A love hate relationship
Singapore Sling - Life is killing my rock'n'roll
Skooshky - Zoloto
Smart Brown Handbag - The big sigh
David Steele - Underneath the ice
Sukilove - You kill me
Sybreed - Slave design
Tan Sleeve - Bad from both sides
Teen Wheat - v. old wheat
The Thin Man - H.M.S. Mondegreen
David Thomas and Two Pale Boys - 18 monkeys on a dead man's chest
Toyen - Did you bring me on national television to tell me this too?
Tribeca - People need to know (advance EP)
Tuna Laguna - It's a fudge
The Uncle Devil Show - She cuts her own fringe (advance CD single)
Valerian - Intimations of sorrow
James L. Venable - Holding space
The Violettes - The Violettes
The Visitations - Propaganda
Visqueen - Sunset on dateland
Peter Walker - Landed
The Wanteds - Let go afterglow
Watsonville Patio - Beneath the leaves
Brandon Wiard - Painting a burning building
Without End - Disease is man
Year Future - The hidden hand
Your Team Ring - In service of the villain
Eric Zwieg - Dance of the Sugarpug

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